Her head whipped up, those deep brown eyes widened and showed him the shock, the pleasure, the welcome all in one glance.
"Oh my God!" Heedless of the contents, she tossed the bags through the open car door. And ran.
He caught her, lifted her six inches off the ground and spun her around before setting her on her feet again. Still he didn't let go. Instead, he just buried his face in her hair.
"Seth. Seth." She clung, ignoring the dog that leaped and yipped and did his best to shove his muzzle between them. "I can't believe it. You're here."
"Just a little. I have to look at you." She had his face framed in her hands as she eased back. So handsome, she thought. So grown-up. "Look at all this," she murmured and brushed a hand at his hair.
"I meant to get some of it whacked off."
"I like it." Tears still trickled even as she grinned. "Very bohemian. You look wonderful. Absolutely wonderful."
"You're the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Oh boy." She sniffled, shook her head. "That's no way to get me to stop all this." She swiped at tears. "When did you get here? I thought you were in Rome."
"I was. I wanted to be here."
"If you'd called, we would've met you."
"I wanted to surprise you." He walked to the car to pull the bags out for her. "Cam at the boatyard?"
"Should be. Here, I'll get those. You need to get your things."
"I'll get them later. Where's Kevin and Jake?"
She started up the walk with him, glanced at her watch as she thought about her sons. "What day is this? My mind's still spinning."
"Ah, Kevin has rehearsal, school play, and Jake's got softball practice. Kevin's got his driver's license, God help us, and is scooping up his brother on his way home." She unlocked the front door. "They should be along in an hour, then peace will no longer lie across the land."
It was the same, Seth thought. It didn't matter what color the walls were painted or if the old sofa had been replaced, if a new lamp stood on the table. It was the same because it felt the same.
The dog snaked around his legs and made a beeline for the kitchen.
"I want you to sit down." She nodded to the kitchen table, under which Witless was sprawled, happily gnawing on a hunk of rope. "And tell me everything. You want some wine?"
"Sure, after I help you put this stuff away." When her eyebrows shot up, he paused with a gallon of milk in his hand. "What?"
"I was just remembering the way everyone, including you, disappeared whenever it was time to put groceries away."
"Because you always said we put things in the wrong place."
"You always did, on purpose so I'd kick you out of the kitchen."
"You copped to that, huh?"
"I cop to everything when it comes to my guys. Nothing gets by me, pal. Did something happen in Rome?"
"No." He continued to unpack the bags. He knew where everything went, where everything had always gone in Anna's kitchen. "I'm not in trouble, Anna."
But you are troubled, she thought, and let it go for now. "I'm going to open a nice Italian white. We'll have a glass and you can tell me all the wonderful things you've been doing. It seems like years since we've talked face-to-face."
He shut the refrigerator and turned to her. "I'm sorry I didn't get home for Christmas."
"Honey, we understood. You had a showing in January. We're all so proud of you, Seth. Cam must've bought a hundred copies of the issue of the Smithsonian magazine when they did the article on you. The young American artist who's seduced Europe."
He shrugged a shoulder, such an innately Quinn gesture, she grinned. "So sit," she ordered.
Copyright Nora Roberts 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Putnam. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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